The #metoo movement is long overdue in my opinion, but there are times when I’m not quite sure how to feel. Everyone deserves to tell their side of the story. I groaned when I heard there was a drunken high school accusation being lodged against Brett Kavanaugh. High school? Really? I thought of my high school alcoholic behavior and cringed.
Sexual assault is traumatic for the victim. Those incidents are seared into your memory, and they don’t ever go away. If the attacker seems to go on and live a marvelous life with seemingly no consequences it has to eat away at you. I also know about blackout drinking. There are things you really don’t remember at all if that’s in your history. The whole story is beyond sad. Unfortunately, it’s also very common. The only difference here is that the man involved is being nominated to the highest court in the land to make decisions for the rest of us.
Yesterday, the New York Times Daily interviewed a woman who was assaulted in high school. Drinking was not involved in this incident. She was not raped. But it basically ruined several years of her life. She blamed herself. How could she put herself in that situation? Was being pretty part of the problem? She cut her hair and started wearing turtlenecks. She shrunk from her social life. Meanwhile, he got a scholarship and went on to college.
In this case, her attacker returned, and with tears in his eyes, apologized. He understood the harm he had done, and he owned it. She was able to tell him she forgave him. She says that the event lost its hold on her. And she went to great lengths to keep his identity hidden. She wanted no harm to come to him either.
The word integrity popped into my mind. Integrity is one of those character traits that is developed through repetition. It’s not easy to walk in integrity. When you have to make amends to someone you’ve harmed or to do something against your own interest, every cell in your body groans. But, if you’ve had a taste of being in integrity with your own values, you know how you feel afterward. The feeling of being in integrity is so much better than the knot of shame in your stomach when you don’t act. It’s a muscle that you develop, and if you don’t use it for small things, you’ll never be able to do it for big things.
Integrity doesn’t mean being perfect. In fact, being imperfect gives you plenty of practice in being in integrity. Integrity means owning up to your shortcomings. It means swallowing your pride because you know that the right thing to do is to come clean. It means looking at a situation and understanding that there is something more important than the event. It means examining your values and acting in accordance with them, regardless of the impact on you.
Integrity, above all, is a decision-making tool. My biggest concern about the powerful men that are being impacted by the #metoo movement is not that the events happened at all. Don’t get me wrong. It shouldn’t EVER happen. And we are thankfully changing our standards as a culture. My biggest disappointment is that our leaders don’t seem to have the integrity to own their past. Their integrity muscle is so weak that I wonder about their decision-making process. For if you can’t override your own best interests when you harm another person deeply, how can you lead at all? To what hell are they leading us? And, if you can’t walk in integrity in your personal life, can you really have integrity on the Supreme Court? As the President? As a minister? As a parent? As a boss?
Here’s a link to that podcast. It’s truly worth a listen.